Durban – TEACHER unions in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) have claimed that the Department of Education’s school safety programme meant to keep teachers and pupils safe “exists in name only” and has failed to stop violence, theft and vandalism at schools.
School principals and other education stakeholders said incidents of vandalism, teachers getting killed on school grounds and pupils joining gangs and stabbing each other on school premises have continued unabated after the launch of the programme.
In response to the gruesome murder of two security guards at Ukusa High School in Hammarsdale last year, Premier Sihle Zikalala and Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu unveiled 1 500 trained volunteers to be allocated to different hot spots across the province.
A year after the project was launched, school stakeholders have described it as “lip service” that has failed to deliver on the promise of security.
When asked about its progress, some schools said they had not heard anything about the school safety programme, while others said the deployment of volunteers had not curbed the security breaches at their schools.
The Mercury understands that the department did allocate volunteers to some schools, but they did not reach all the schools in need.
During the national lockdown more than 400 schools were vandalised in KZN. That was followed by more security breaches at schools, which claimed lives.
Recently, Mshengu was forced to intervene at a school in Folweni following incidents of gangsterism and pupils attacking each other on school grounds.
Last week, police arrested six suspects for the murder of a 46-year-old school principal from Somashi High School in Msinga. The educator was shot dead in front of teachers and pupils.
This week, Trenance Park Secondary school in Verulam was vandalised, according to people close to the school, for the umpteenth time. The administration’s block doors were damaged and burglar bars were bent.
A Durban school principal, who asked not to be named, said they had not heard anything about the programme since it was announced.
“The fact of the matter is that our department is broke, they cannot afford anything. You cannot expect people to volunteer without even a stipend, you have to pay them something. The programme was announced and we were never briefed on it, and nothing ever happened and nothing has happened since.
“There are schools that are located in bad areas, besieged by drug abuse and are vandalised constantly and have a need for more security guards,” said the principal.
A teacher at one of the Durban schools said there was a volunteer at his school, but that had done nothing to deter criminals.
“Since 2018, there have been more than 25 break-ins at the school, the roof has been damaged, the strong room has been damaged, a fence was installed but was stolen within three months.”
Some of the teachers who spoke to The Mercury said no one was safe as even the guards hired by the school were being assaulted.
“As we speak six have quit the job in fear of their lives, and the volunteer is still there for six hours during the day.”
Educators Union of South Africa president, Scelo Bhengu, said the announcement was just lip service and they had never approved of it as it fell short of schools’ security needs. He said trained SAPS reservists should be deployed to schools.
National Teachers Union president Allen Thompson said the programme existed in name only.
“They put volunteers in a few schools in Durban, and after that it never moved anywhere. We are concerned about many incidents where teachers have been left compromised.”
DA education spokesperson Dr Im- ran Keeka said the programme never really took off due to poor planning and a shortage of funds, adding that it failed to provide security to pupils and staff.
Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the volunteer programme was being implemented, but “there was very little that the department could do to stop people who were hell-bent on causing harm. We see this even in police stations where people are attacked inside the station.”